The Challenge of Being a Condo Association Public Figure

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A Condo Board member faces many challenges.  But one that often goes unremarked is the fact that you are a Condo Association public figure – in addition to all your other jobs.  At the end of the day, you are an elected public official.  You run an Association that might be modest in size, or could be a thousand units.  You have the ability to tax people and punish them.  Along with this responsibility comes the unfair fact that you will be treated like any elected official.  Some of that is good, some of it is challenging, and some of it is unfair.

You Must Always Be On

Being on the Board is like running a 24/7 diner. Always on.

As a Condo Association public figure, you will always have to be “on.”  While you may seek to create boundaries between your Board persona and regular life, there will be Owners who will seek to break that.  Owners will intrude on your workout to complain about things.  You will end up awkwardly trapped in an elevator with someone for whom you had to hold a hearing and found them guilty.  They might be adults, or they may use that quality elevator time to intimidate you.  You will come home from a rough day at work and then be told by someone you’re a sucky Board member and terrible person.  It won’t happen all the time – but it is going to happen.  And it will inevitably feel like it happens when you are the most stressed out from the rest of your life.  You will need to resist the urge to tell them to go stuff it, and act like an adult.

You Will Be Called Upon for Leadership

Owners will look to you for leadership and guidance.  You’ll notably see this during times of tragedy or challenge.  You might have an Owner pass away unexpectedly, and other Owners will ask you to hold a memorial service.  If there is a special assessment, you will get a lot of heat but not a lot of ideas.  The mob will be happy to yell, but they will not be looking to lead or solve the problem.  Their attitude will be – you wanted the job, so you can fix it.  This will again seem unfair, but it is part of being a Condo Association public figure.  

You May be Defamed

No one wants lies spread about them, particularly in the digital age.

In the digital age, you may even get defamed.  A motivated Owner might create a website decrying the Board – potentially by name.  They may blog about you, post about you on Facebook, or whatever their social media venture of choice is.  To top it all off, you might even be considered a public figure for cases of defamation, a least in Florida.   A fascinating article by Howard J. Perl talks about a growing body of case law about how Board members have less libel and slander protection than regular people.  

The net result of this is that an unhappy Owner has more hypothetical leeway to say or publish nasty things about Board members.  While this may not seem like a big deal, in the digital age, where everyone from prospective employers to prospective romantic interests will Google your name, the last thing someone wants is to have a website that says nasty things come popping up.  

Is It Worth It?

Only you can decide if you have the personality and psyche for being a Condo Association public figure.  There are many good reasons to serve on your Board, including many self-serving ones.  But it is a tough job, and you should be aware of what you’re getting into.  Be aware of the challenge, embrace it, and grow from it – and you will lead a better Condo life.  


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